Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down and have a no-holds-barred telephone conversation with Against Me! frontwoman Laura Jane Grace — who is currently on tour with arena-rock band Green Day — and found time to chat before a show in Arkansas.
For those unfamiliar with Grace, she is an openly transgender singer-songwriter, social activist, punk rocker, and author. Recently having appeared on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Grace took some very direct stands against the Trump administration, and has become somewhat of a pop culture icon for her very outspoken beliefs and never-say-die attitude.
I was pleased that she was willing to speak so candidly with me and didn’t mince words when it came to talking about President Donald Trump and what she feels are distraction tactics used by members of the political right. Recent efforts by the Trump administration to repeal the transgender bathroom bill have become fuel for her angst and she had little trouble sounding off on the issue. The “bathroom bill” is the common name for legislation that denies transgender individuals access to public facilities, such as restrooms.
“Obviously like anyone even paying attention slightly to what is going on with the current administration in the U.S. recognizes that there is no shortage of moments where you’re just like slapping your forehead and going ‘what the f*ck?!’ It’s kind of totally a scary time, and the transgender community as with the rest of the LGBTQ community, are not the only communities under attack by the Trump administration. I think in general it feels like the world is under attack by the Trump administration.”
Speaking about the implications of state-legislated bathroom bills, Grace feels as though it’s a direct way for the state to infringe upon the rights of certain individuals:
“But in particular, there is just like this continued focus on stripping away rights and protections of people. I have commented that it feels like a more evil thing than we are usually used to in politics. Going out of your way to push things backwards is just like a clear sign of an agenda of dehumanizing groups of people and separating groups of people, and making a group of people a target. That is not the kind of society that I want to live in. Certainly not.”
A main criticism of the left is that often times it appears to be regressive in its effort to cater to special interests and subsections of society; often times failing to be satisfied unless that agenda is fulfilled. When asked if to comment on these criticisms, Grace wasn’t shy in sharing her disapproval with what she felt was a falsified message. She made bold arguments that those blaming the “Bernie or Bust” movement for allowing Donald Trump to rise to power aren’t remaining objective, and that to suggest such subcultures within the left are providing ammunition to the neo-liberal, right-wing conservative movement, comes across to her as disingenuous.
“I think there are many levels at play there, and that’s a really complicated thing. You can kind of go off on many different tangents from many different angles with. Particularly with Bernie Sanders. I would be totally open to making the argument that maybe the Democratic primaries were rigged, and maybe Bernie Sanders should have been the one that was on the bill. But let’s go beyond that. I really strongly believe that people’s issue with Hillary Clinton was really specifically that she was a woman — and not likely anything to do with politics — and certainly not anything to do with her emails as has been demonstrated here lately with reports that Vice-President Mike Pence used a personal email for government business. It was never about emails, and it was never about Benghazi. Most people still don’t even know where Benghazi is on a map.”
Zeroing in on the rampant sexism still so blatantly evident in one of the most powerful, developed countries on earth, Grace continues:
“These were just specific things to point to because it was the idea of a woman leading, and unfortunately to me, it’s not very surprising that after such a significant step of progress in the United States with eight years of having our first African American president that of course the next president that was elected would be some racist, crusty white guy. That just sadly makes total sense to me. I think that is really a reaction to that.”
She went on to call out the Trump administration for its exclusionary agenda based, quite frankly, on sheer hatred:
“It’s so abundantly clear to me that the agenda of the Trump administration is a white agenda. It’s based on nationalism. It’s based on racism. It’s based on sexism. It’s based on homophobia. It’s based on transphobia. And it’s based on not giving people equal rights.”
To Grace, the left’s agenda is pretty simple: equal rights for everyone:
“I think it’s really false and inaccurate, and condescending to say ‘well the left shoots itself in the foot by having all these different subsections.’ For anyone, no matter how unique they are, to say ‘I demand equal rights as a human being’ to be dismissed as saying ‘that’s just too specific, your needs are like whatever’ is just bullshit. Equal rights for everyone, regardless! That’s my philosophy. The left is coming from a place of ‘we would like rights and this group of people would like rights that you have’ and the right is always coming from the place of ‘no, we would like rights that you don’t have. We want your rights to be taken away’ and that’s always what the argument breaks down to, and I can’t see how anyone can agree with that shit.”
We exchanged cynical laughter about how there always seems to be an excuse, drawing on the frequently cited example of how we should help our own homeless before taking in Syrian refugees, and then saying ‘that’s great, what would you like to do?’ only to hear nothing because they don’t actually want to do anything to help.
“Yeah, they don’t want to help them. Marriage equality is a perfect example of that, too. You have one group of people who can get married, and all we are saying is there is another group of people who are saying ‘we would like to get married too.’ It’s the same with the pro-choice argument, where no one is saying you shouldn’t have the right or the choice to have a baby, it’s just that some people believe that they have a right to control their body and to be able to have an option, you know? I strongly agree with that, and that’s what it’s always come down to. It seems like to me it’s obvious bullshit.”
Against Me! is currently touring in support of the new record “Shapeshift With Me” and has a number of Canadian dates coming up on tour both opening for Green Day, and as a main feature act between March 18 and March 23rd. Grace’s tell-all autobiography Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout is available in bookstores worldwide.
For more from this interview, visit soundcheckentertainment.ca.